Republican US Representative Tom Rice, who voted to impeach Donald Trump after the 6 January US Capitol riot, lost his re-election bid in South Carolina on Tuesday, while a second Republican incumbent targeted by the former president prevailed.
A prime target in Trump's midterm revenge campaign against perceived political enemies, Rice lost the Republican nomination to Russell Fry 24.6% to 51%, with 99% of the vote counted, according to Edison Research. Fry, a state legislator, is likely to win the November general election in the strongly Republican district.
In another South Carolina district, US Representative Nancy Mace defeated Trump-endorsed challenger Katie Arrington 53.2% to 45% with 76% of the vote counted, Edison Research said.
Rice, a five-term incumbent, and Mace, a freshman, each ran afoul of Trump after his supporters attacked the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, while Congress worked to certify the 2020 presidential election. The riot is now the subject of a bipartisan congressional investigation that focused this week on Trump's false claims of a stolen 2020 election.
Rice was one of 10 congressional Republicans to vote for Trump's impeachment and now the first of that group to lose re-election. Some others opted not to run.
"The voters have spoken and Tom Rice is coming home," Fry told supporters in a video posted on his campaign's Facebook page. "Today, Donald Trump won."
Mace drew Trump's ire by refusing to back Republican efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential election results. Trump, who turned 76 on Tuesday, had asked supporters to give him two birthday presents by defeating Rice and Mace.
The results will be seen as a measure of Trump's continued influence over the Republican Party as he hints at another run for the White House in 2024. His endorsees so far have had mixed success in battleground states including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina.
Voters also cast ballots on Tuesday in Nevada, Maine and North Dakota to choose party nominees to compete in the November general elections for the US Senate and House of Representatives.
With Democratic President Joe Biden slumping in the polls and soaring inflation souring voters' moods, Republicans are expected to win control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. That would bring Biden's legislative agenda to a halt and give Republicans the power to launch investigations that could be politically damaging.
A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll completed on Tuesday showed Biden's public approval rating at 39%, in its third straight weekly decline, approaching the lowest level of his presidency. Fifty-six percent of Americans disapprove of Biden's job performance.
Republican flips house seat
Republicans got a boost in South Texas, where party candidate Mayra Flores defeated Democrat Dan Sanchez in a special election to capture the seat vacated by former Democratic Representative Filemon Vela in March, according to Edison Research.
Flores will fill the vacancy for the remainder of Vela's term, which expires in early January. Although the victory raises Republican hopes of flipping more Democratic seats in November, the district's boundaries have been redrawn for the fall vote to make it more favorable to Democrats.
In Nevada, Trump-endorsed Adam Laxalt, a former state attorney general, was the front-runner in a crowded field of Republican primary contenders seeking the party's nomination for a crucial US Senate race. Polls closed but no results were yet available.
Republicans are looking to pick up the seat held by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the 2022 midterm campaign.
Republican Jim Marchant, who falsely claims the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, is vying for a chance to become Nevada's top election official.
Among 2020 election deniers running for elections posts across the country, Marchant has distinguished himself by claiming that elections have been rigged for decades and by arguing that electronic voting machines should be replaced by paper ballots. He blamed his own 2020 US House loss to Democratic Representative Steven Horsford on election fraud.
Marchant faces six other Republican candidates in the secretary of state contest and has received endorsements from high-profile conservatives, including former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and pro-Trump businessman Mike Lindell.
Republicans also are selecting nominees to run against three vulnerable House Democrats from Nevada - Horsford, Dina Titus and Susie Lee.
Titus, who entered Congress in 2009, faces a challenge for her party nomination from progressive Democrat Amy Vilela, who is endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders.
The Republican field in Titus' district includes former Nevada Trump campaign aide Carolina Serrano, retired Army Colonel Mark Robertson and pro-Israel activist David Brog. Brog is endorsed by Trump's former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In Maine, Paul LePage, whose turbulent eight years as the state's governor foreshadowed Trump's rise, ran unopposed for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Governor Janet Mills in November.
LePage, who once described himself as "Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular," was widely criticized as governor for his inflammatory remarks on a host of topics from immigration, the environment and LGBTQ issues to abortion and voting rights. He left office with an approval rating below 40%.